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Inheritance For Members

Inheritance in Switzerland: Which country's laws should dual nationals follow?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Inheritance in Switzerland: Which country's laws should dual nationals follow?
Your will is going to make determining your inheritance easier. Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Switzerland has well-defined rules for inheritance and succession rights. But do dual nationals have some leeway in choosing which country's laws to follow?

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First, let’s look at what Swiss inheritance / succession legislation says.

Who gets what depends on whether you have a will or not when you die (the latter’s legal term is ‘intestate.’)

If you don’t have a will, your estate will be divvied up among your legal heirs: spouse or registered partner and children.

Typically, the spouse gets half of your assets and the children the other half, to be divided equally among them.

In case you have no kids, your parents or even grandparents could inherit from you.

Next in the statuary succession rights  are siblings.

If, however, you have no living relatives whatsoever, your estate will go to the canton or commune of your last residence.

What if you do have a will?

It will give you some, though not total, flexibility in who you want to leave your assets to — and how much. 

For instance, you can choose who your heirs will be and how your estate should be distributed among them.

You can decide to give more than a half to your spouse and less to the children, or vice-versa.

However, your legal heirs — that is, spouse and children — cannot be cut out of your will altogether.

Note that this law applies to Swiss citizens only. If you are a foreign national living in Switzerland, your succession is normally governed by the laws of your country.

However, if you a long-term resident and plan to remain here permanently — for instance, if you have a C permit — you can choose the Swiss law instead of the foreign one to apply upon your death. But you must state your preference in your will.

If you die intestate, then the Swiss legislation will kick in, as it will be deemed the law of your last place of residence.

READ ALSO: 7 things you need to know about Swiss inheritance law

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What about dual nationals?

At present, those who have Swiss citizenship in addition to a foreign one, must abide by Switzerland’s inheritance law only.

That’s because, for all intents and purposes (including legal ones), they are considered to be Swiss citizens only.

However, this will soon change.

On December 22nd, 2023, the parliament adopted the Federal Act on International Private Law (PILA), which will give dual nationals in Switzerland the option of basing their succession on the laws of  their ‘other’ country of citizenship.

However, in doing so, dual nationals can’t derogate from Swiss statuary succession rules — that is, they won't be able to exclude spouses and children from inheriting their part of the estate.

The new legislation is expected to come into force on January 1st, 2025.

READ ALSO: What you should know about dying in Switzerland

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